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Heart research gender bias killing women

Gender bias is not just a social issue but a health issue and it’s costing the lives of women. Despite heart disease being the number one killer of Australian women, women have remained largely invisible to cardiovascular researchers, the Heart Foundation’s chief medical officer professor Garry Jennings told a forum in Sydney.

“When it comes to gender equity, recent decades have seen advances made in most areas, but these barriers persist; not least in the prevention, identification and treatment of heart disease,” Jennings said. “The most recent available figures show that healthcare expenditure in men with heart disease doubled that of women.”

The stats show heart disease claims the life of one woman every hour of every day, yet women themselves are more “terrified” of breast cancer.

Cardiologist associate professor of medicine Lynne Pressley from Mater Hospital and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital says heart disease actually kills three times as many women as breast cancer.

“Not only do women think breast cancer is more likely to kill them but they’re more terrified of that than they are of heart disease,” Pressley said. “I think that goes back to the old traditional thing where everyone thought that the person who got heart attacks was the male.”

So concerned about the disparities in research and awareness, experts in the field of cardiology, obstetrics and general practice gathered at the Heart Foundation’s inaugural Women and Heart Disease Forum on Wednesday 14 June 2017 to put the health of female hearts on top of the agenda.

“What we are aiming to gain is not only a greater awareness but a greater commitment to enrol women in trials and as part of that have more women researchers and more women cardiologists because they’re more likely to be interested in women’s outcomes,” said Pressley.

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